What You Need to Know About the Lord's Table (Luke 22:14-20)
I. The Image Giver
One of the most recognizable paintings in the world is a mural that was painted in Milan, Italy sometime in the closing years of the 15th century. It is 15 feet tall and almost 30 feet wide. Due to a variety of factors (including the kind of paint used, environmental challenges, and deliberate damage) very little of the actual painting still exists today. Which painting do I have in mind? I'm talking about “The Last Supper” by Leonard Da Vinci.
If there's one thing we know about Leonardo, he was an image giver. In addition to the twenty or so of his paintings that have survived to this day, we still possess over 13,000 pages from his sketchbooks. But my focus this morning on Leonardo and his “Last Supper” is simply meant to be a creative way to direct our attention to an even greater image giver. In fact, he's the One seated right in the center of Da Vinci's painting.
Have you ever thought about Jesus Christ as an 'image giver'? While we're never told that Jesus wrote things down and passed them on to his followers, we are told how he gave them two powerful images; images that he commanded be regularly displayed among God's people. What are these images? They are baptism and what Scripture refers to as “the Lord's Supper” (I Corinthians 11:20) or “the table of the Lord” (I Corinthians 10:21). Wonderfully, both are images that point us back to the same universe-altering reality. Intrigued? Let's unpack this idea about “the Lord's Supper” by looking together at Luke 22.
II. The Passage: “Do This in Remembrance of Me” (vs. 14-20)
Look with me at verses 14-20 of Luke 22. This is what we read about the Jesus and his disciples the evening before his death....
And when the hour came, [Jesus] reclined at table, and the apostles with him.  And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.  For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves.  For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”  And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
In attempting to make sense of this passage, I think it's helpful to notice that Jesus is speaking in light of three different 'time perspectives'. He is remembering the past, he is revealing in the present, and he is reassuring in light of the future. Do you see that? What I'd like to do is show how all three of these time categories are helpful in terms of us making sense of this ceremony or ritual or observance that Jesus has presented here. So let's start by thinking together about Jesus...
1. Remembering the Past (vs. 14, 15)
Verses 7-13 of this chapter introduce and confirm the setting we read about in verse 15. It's Passover, one of the most important festivals of the Jewish faith. If we wanted to learn more about Passover, Exodus chapters 12 and 13 are the place to go. These chapters explain how God instructed Moses to instruct each Israelite household to kill an unblemished lamb and place its blood on the top of their door frame so that the angel of death would pass over their houses as he killed firstborns throughout the land of Egypt. As you may remember, it was this devastating plague that finally moved Pharaoh to release the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery.
But Exodus 12 and 13 also instruct the Israelites to remember that fateful night every year. So Passover became an annual time of remembrance, in fact, the first night of a seven-day festival called “the feast of Unleavened Bread” (since they left Egypt so quickly that they could not even put leaven or yeast in the dough they were kneading).
Why is this 'past perspective' so important? Because ideas like deliverance from death, release from slavery, and the blood of a Lamb provide the crucial context for what Jesus is...
2. Revealing in the Present (vs. 19-20)
What is Jesus revealing here? He's revealing his stunning connection to Passover and the decisive deliverance of God. There's a reason the Apostle Paul, many years later, would declare in I Corinthians 5:7, ...for Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Please don't miss how radical Jesus' actions are here. He has, in effect, hijacked the Passover meal (which had been celebrated for over a thousand years by that time... He has taken that meal) and 'rewired' it. He is now making it about himself. Look again at verses 19 and 20...
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
So either Jesus has a very low view of the Passover, or he has a view that is much, much higher than even the Jews at that time understood. Of the course the context in Luke (in fact, the very next chapter) goes on to confirm what Paul would later declare: our Passover lamb was sacrificed. Just as Jesus indicated at that table, his body was “given” and his blood was “poured out”. On the cross, Jesus gave his life so that we might be set free; spared from eternal death and liberated from slavery to sin. But we also read here how Jesus is...
3. Reassuring in Light of the Future (vs. 16-18)
In verses 16-18, Jesus seems to be explaining to his disciples the reason he is not partaking with them (or why, for the near future, this will be his last Passover meal): because the next feast day, the next festival meal, the next banquet at which Jesus will be eating is the banquet he described several chapters earlier in Luke 13:29...
And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.
This banquet of the Messiah will be, according to Jesus in Luke 22:16, a fulfillment of the Passover meal. How? Why? Because the release and rescue in Egypt was ultimately a picture of the fuller, spiritual release and rescue accomplished by Jesus. And that release and rescue will not be fully and finally realized until Jesus returns, to cleanse from every inch of creation the stain of sin and death. This is why Paul, again in I Corinthians, reminds those disciples, For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (I Corinthians 11:26)
III. The Significance for You and Us
And that helps us make sense of why followers of Jesus continue this observance. Why did Jesus say in verse 19 regarding the bread, “Do this in remembrance of me”? In I Corinthians 11:25, Paul indicates that Jesus said pretty much the same thing after he passed the cup: “Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” So was he saying, “Every Passover, eat the bread and drink the cup in remembrance of me”?
If He was, that's not how the early church took it. How do we know that? Well, in I Corinthians 11:17-34, the Apostle Paul speaks to followers of Jesus about this same exact observance, which he calls in that passage, “the Lord's Supper” (or dinner, or feast, or banquet). When you read about how both Jewish and Gentile Christians in Corinth did this “in remembrance of” Jesus, it sure sounds like it was a pretty much weekly practice. In fact, like the original setting in Luke 22, this observance appears to have been part of an entire meal (i.e., like a worship service and potluck combined).
So why is all this important? Because it helps us as disciples, as followers of Jesus, to understand what God has called us to do, in our day and age. Now think about it: from a Jewish Passover meal just before his crucifixion, Jesus instituted a practice involving bread and wine, a custom that he declared was to be done “in remembrance of me”. This meaning-filled meal then became the meaningful meal that Christians, both Jews and Gentiles, observed whenever, according to I Corinthians 11:18, “you come together as a church”.
And as most of you know, Christians today, including at Way of Grace, still observe this custom (albeit simplified from a full meal to just the basic elements). But keeping everything we've learned in mind, we need to ask, “Why? Why does God want us to continue this custom? Why did Jesus establish it in the first place? Let me offer two answers to that question; the first focused on you the individual, the second on us as a church family.
First, this “table of the Lord” or “Lord's supper” was given by Jesus in order to regularly point every one of his followers to the eternal life purchased by his sacrificial death. Even though John's Gospel is the only Gospel that does not mention the establishing of this “Lord's supper”, it does contain this teaching. Jesus, who only a few verses earlier revealed himself to be “the bread of life”, went on to declare in John 6:53-56...
...“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.
No, Jesus is not promoting cannibalism here. The context makes it clear that eating is being used by Jesus as a picture for faith. Just as a person might receive bread and wine, taking these inside himself or herself, so too does faith receive Jesus as the Lamb of God, taking this Good News into one's heart. Therefore, just like the Passover meal from which the custom was established, this meal is a way you and I can regularly be spiritually nourished by remembering and savoring the decisive deliverance of God.
Think about the power of this symbolic act: tangible elements (i.e., bread and wine) point us regularly to the very real, broken body and shed blood of Jesus, who suffered and died for you on a very real, Roman cross. Then these tangible elements are offered to you freely, a reminder of God's generous grace and lavish love. Next, you receiving this bread and wine (or juice) is a picture of saving faith, faith that receives the sacrifice of Christ for the gift that it is. Finally, just as these (now consumed) food items nourish your body, so too does the death of Jesus nourish your heart, since you are reminded that, through Jesus, you have been delivered, are being delivered, and will one day be fully delivered from sin, for God, forever.
Building on that, let me offer a second reason Jesus established this practice. I think we can also say that this “table of the Lord” or “Lord's supper” was given by Jesus in order to regularly stimulate our unity and confirm our identity as the body of Christ. Listen to how Paul encourages the disciples in Corinth in I Corinthians 10:16, 17. He reminds them...
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation (Gk. koinonia, a sharing, a fellowship, a partnership) in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?  Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
Whatever you value about your connectedness to this church family, and to the individuals of whom it is composed, we can never forget that what unites us above all else is, in fact, above all else: Jesus Christ and his shed blood. We are the “body of Christ” for only one reason: the body of Christ broken for us. This is exactly why Paul highlights for the Corinthians the point we heard earlier: For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (11:26) That is what unites us until we are fully united to Him!
Therefore, when we observe the Lord's Table, as personally powerful as it is for each one of us, we must also guard against making it a purely private affair. We celebrate this Table together; that is, it should point us to the body of Christ in two ways. This is precisely why Paul took the Corinthians to task in 11:17-34. They were respecting neither the unity of the church family nor the identity of the One to whom the bread and wine pointed.
Brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ has left us with two powerful, evocative, beautiful images: the waters of baptism, and the bread and wine of the Supper. And both point us back to the same universe-altering reality: the self-giving and atoning and finished work of Christ on the cross. As often as we observe these customs, we are proclaiming the power of the cross. Do you know that power... that cleansing power, that liberating power, that reconciling power that makes peace with God possible?
If you do, then any time and every time you come to the Lord's table, come with humility and gratitude and this knowledge, this knowledge that provides you with lenses through which you can perceive and ponder the redemptive reality behind the symbols of bread and wine.
Let me close with one final point. Some may ask, “Is there ever a time I should not participate in the Lord's supper?” The answer is “yes”. If participation in the Table is an expression of our participation together in Christ's body and blood, then only genuine Christians, only truly born again believers, should be involved in this observance. But I think there's a second reason to abstain. Paul writes in I Corinthians 11:27, 28...
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
Is Paul describing here some restriction on believers who are struggling with sin, or who have a strained relationship with a brother or sister, or who are, for whatever reason, feeling genuinely unworthy of the Table? No, no, and no. Those are, in fact, all excellent reasons to come to Jesus and feed on the empowering truth of the gospel!
What Paul was warning the Corinthians about was treating the Supper like any other meal; using it to satisfy one's physical hunger; treating it as purely a social occasion, while at the same time, not sharing food with poorer brothers and sisters, and not waiting for those who could not arrive earlier. That is what it means to eat and drink “in an unworthy manner”. So if you are coming to the Table too casually or too callously, then yes, stop and talk with God about your heart.
But to the rest of us, in light of everything God has revealed to us this morning, I simply invite you to come to the Table, in light of these words from Psalm 34:8... Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
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